Free Things to Do in Lisbon

No Charge! Free Things to do in Lisbon.

There are plenty of free things to do in Lisbon. Visitors can explore some of the city’s best churches, museums and gardens while not parting with a cent – ideal for those wishing to save money or traveling on a budget. A fantastic bargain is the free classical music concerts staged at Palácio Foz, where you can listen to wonderful recitals in opulent surroundings.  Another free-to-enter attraction is the underground archaeological site, the Núcleo Arquelógico, set under the streets of Lisbon’s Baixa district. Similarly, the remarkable D. Dinis Wall is reached by delving underground and is also a complimentary experience.

If you feel like chilling out, nip over to the verdant Jardim da Estrela, a beautiful little park where you can stroll or picnic in landscaped grounds. However, if it’s really hot take the train and head over to Praia do Carcavelos, a large sandy beach on the Lisbon Coast just 20 minutes out of the city center. Lisbon is punctuated with miradouros, purpose-built viewpoints that afford fabulous panoramas across the city that cost nothing visit.

A rewarding way to spend a morning is at the Feira da Ladra, the "Thieves' Market" where it's possible to bag a bargain as you meander freely through the city's largest flea market. On the western edge of the capital is the interesting Cemitério dos Prazeres, a large cemetery noted for its monumental tombs and baroque mausoleums. Free guided tours are conducted on a daily basis. And there's no charge to explore the exuberant interior of one of the city's most visited churches, Igreja de São Roque, located in Chiado. Prepare to be wowed! Outside the city near Oeiras is the appealing Parque dos Poetas. This is a wonderful park to explore and unwind in after shopping at Oeiras Parque mall.


Outside the City

An imaginatively conceived green space themed around Portugal's greatest literary figures and those of the Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) world, the "Poets' Park" combines carefully landscaped grounds with works of art from some of the country's leading sculptors. The attractive park features a series of gardens dedicated to a particular wordsmith. Those to look out for include areas highlighting Renaissance poets Gil Vicente (1465–1537) and Luís de Camões (1524–1580), and 20th-century greats Miguel Torga (1907–1995) and Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935). A lake, maze and children's playground offer pleasing distractions. At twilight, the park is wonderfully illuminated.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The park pays aesthetic homage to the country's most respected poets. The integrated amphitheater hosts music concerts. Rock star Sting recently played there.

Paul's expert tip: The park is located in Oeiras, west of the city center. It's very near the Oeiras Shopping mall. From there it's a 5-minute walk.

Read more about Parque dos Poetas →

Bairro Alto/Principe Real

The non-descript facade of this church belies a dazzling interior. Founded towards the end of the 16th century by the Jesuit Order, the riot of carved, gilded and painted woodwork is extraordinary, as is the marble sculpture and Florentine azulejos (tiles) that embellish the design. But it is one particular chapel that steals the show â€" the 18th-century Capela de São João Baptista. Constructed in Rome by a craftsman who used amethyst, alabaster, lapis lazuli, gold, silver and precious marbles, the sanctuary is absolutely breath-taking in its intricacy: the mosaics depicting St John the Baptist's life remain as illuminating as the day they were set. The neighboring museum (entrance fee) exhibits a wealth of religious artifacts.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: A Lisbon visitor attraction that really is a hidden gem. The museum next door complements the interior but there is an admission charge.

Paul's expert tip: Look out for the scenes of the Apocalypse painted on the church ceiling.

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The Prazeres Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Lisbon, and one of the most notable in Portugal. Located in the west of the city on the fringes of the leafy Campo de Ourique neighborhood, Prazeres, which – somewhat incongruously – translates in English as "pleasures", was created in 1833 to cope with the high mortality rate following an outbreak of cholera. While not in the league of Paris's Pére Lachaise Cemetery in terms of celebrity status, Prazeres remains the final resting place of some of the country's most prominent citizens, a roll call that includes authors, artists and politicians. For the most part, however, the cemetery is the permanent residence of the departed rich and distinguished, a fact illustrated by the grand and elaborate baroque family mausoleums that are an appealing feature of this unlikely visitor attraction.

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Animated and noisy, Feira da Ladra is the city's largest and liveliest flea market. Its name translates to English as the "Thieves' Market", a nod to the long-running joke that if you're robbed in Lisbon one day chances are you'll find your property on sale here the next. In fact, the moniker stands for the astonishing array of curios and bric-a-brac that can be found among the many stalls spread over Campo de Santa Clara near Alfama district. Here you can find hand-painted lacquered tiles, theatre programmes, coins, old postcards, militaria, His Master's Voice gramophones, carpenter's planes, terracotta wine jars, cast-iron door knockers and probably even a kitchen sink, among other knick-knacks. A seasoned eye might pick out a valuable antique or an interesting collectible amongst the tat, and if you're prepared to haggle you could take home a bargain.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Open to everyone, Feira da Ladra is a quirky and memorable experience where you can spend nothing or everything.

Paul's expert tip: For the chance of bagging a rarity, arrive early on the day, either Tuesday or Saturday.

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Lisbon's hilly disposition affords some fabulous panoramas across the city's downtown and historic districts. Indeed, the Portuguese capital unveils itself over several hills and all of them have at least one miradouro, a purpose-built terrace sometimes incorporated into a landscaped garden and usually served by a kiosk café. These public spaces are strategically located to offer superb views of Lisbon that take in national monuments and other buildings of note and very often the River Tejo and the south bank beyond. One of the most celebrated viewpoints is the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, which looms over Alfama, the city's oldest neighborhood. Another celebrated spot is the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara overlooking the Baixa.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Outstanding cultural and architectural features and very much part of the Lisbon experience, miradouros provide picture postcard opportunities.

Paul's expert tip: On clear days note the direction of the sun and time your visits so that your perspective is highlighted by a beautifully warm backlit sunlit wash.

Read more about Miradouros (viewpoints) →

Outside the City

One of Portugal's finest beaches, Praia de Carcavelos is set conveniently near Lisbon, which makes it a fantastic summertime destination when the city gets too hot and stuffy. But even in winter this golden stretch of sand, just a 20-minute train journey from the city center, is a great place to chill out and spend your free time. Awarded a Blue Flag for water quality and classified as an Accessible Beach for those with mobility issues, Carcavelos is a favorite with surfers and body boarders: national and international surfing competitions are held here throughout the year. Lifeguards supervise the beach during the summer season (1 May–30 September) when it can get uncomfortably crowded. Lining the esplanade are plenty of cafes and restaurants and if you're not a beachgoer or sun-worshipper by nature, the lengthy promenade walk is reason enough to flip-flop away half a day or so.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: A fabulous natural asset and conveniently close to Lisbon, Praia de Carcavelos is worth visiting at any time of the year.

Paul's expert tip: Lisbon's Cais do Sodré railway station serves Carcavelos, where passengers should alight for the ten-minute walk to the beach.

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Lush and verdant, the Estrela Garden remains one of the prettiest of Lisbon's public green spaces. Attractive at any time of year, this diminutive landscaped park is at its most colorful and vibrant during spring and summer. Adding to its allure is a water feature teeming with ducks and geese. A waterfront cafe overlooks the idyllic scene. The garden is a popular meeting point for residents, especially at weekends when an arts and crafts fair meanders through the grounds. The well-maintained lawns make perfect picnic sites while the adjacent adventure playground keeps smiling youngsters occupied. A refurbished 19th-century wrought-iron bandstand is still used today as an ad-hoc concert stage and there's even an open-air library for bookworms to browse.

Read more about Jardim da Estrela →

Underneath the streets of Lisbon is one of the city's more unusual sightseeing attractions, the D. Dinis Wall. Stretching for nearly 30m, the wall dates from the 13th century and is named after King Dinis, one of Portugal's most charismatic monarchs. The masonry has, for the most part, survived the test of time and provides a hugely rewarding glimpse into the city's past: sections of the wall were used to support the 16th-century Royal Palace, built near the city's Praca Comercio. The entire structure is housed within an Interpretation Centre where a museum displays a number of artifacts that were unearthed shortly after the wall was discovered. Among the pieces exhibited is a collection of 13th-century French and Portuguese coins, 16th-century azulejos (tiles) believed to have decorated the palace walls and a wooden stake used in the late 18th century to stabilize the ground and the walls of a later building.

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Incorporated within the premises of a bank in Lisbon's Baixa (downtown) district is a museum the modest dimensions of which belie one of the city's great cultural attractions. Set beneath the floor is an amazing archaeological site layered with the fantastically well-preserved remains of Roman, Islamic and medieval occupation. Tangible signs of 15th to mid-18th-century human activity are also evident. The museum itself is an engaging mirror into the past with its exhibits of Roman coins, Moorish ceramics and other assorted artifacts from everyday life including rings, broaches and hairpins. Afterward, visitors can explore downstairs. Here, deep under the city's streets, is a subterranean yesterday where among other sights you can gaze upon stone tanks built by the Romans to make garum, a fermented fish sauce. There's also an eerie 5th-century burial chamber complete with skeleton, and scattered building foundations dating from the 1800s.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: A remarkable journey into the past awaits visitors to this fascinating underground archaeological site, undoubtedly one of Lisbon's great sightseeing highlights.

Paul's expert tip: The free guided tours are conducted alternately in English or Portuguese.

Read more about Núcleo Arqueológico →

The landmark 18th-century Palácio Foz provides a suitably historic backdrop for a program of free live music recitals held regularly in this noble building. The concerts, which are performed two or three times a month, feature a range of musical styles including piano recitals, bassoon and harp recitals, and choral music. Often accompanied by voice, performances are usually classical in nature, but can also err towards jazz. The venue is the palace's spectacular gilded Mirror Room, a plush and opulent salon illuminated by hanging chandeliers. All concerts last approximately one hour and places are limited to room capacity. Note also that children under six are not permitted.

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Meet Paul Bernhardt

Paul Bernhardt cut his teeth as a press photographer in England before leaving the UK to settle in Portugal, where he has lived for over a decade, and where he started to focus on more...  More About Paul